Saturday, August 22, 2015

My annual visit to BoxFest

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It's no secret that one of my favorite events every summer is BoxFest. Created to showcase the work of women directors, several careers have been launched over the many years of the festival, including that of one of the executives smiling at us in this video, Molly McMahon, who has rapidly become of the most insightful young directors in town.

Winking at us is her partner-in-crime, Kelly Rossi. And together, these two women work hard every year to create a safe space for both inexperienced and long-time veteran women directors to practice their craft, try new things, and make connections with other folks in the industry.

To be totally honest, the curtain speeches before each "box" within the event are by themselves worth the price of admission. How can you not love these two dynamos? They're charming, witty, sexy and a whole lot of fun. But more importantly, they - along with their predecessors - deserve the community's thanks for their tireless effort in promoting opportunities for women directors. (Here and elsewhere in the industry, most shows are directed by men, although the numbers are beginning to change.)

Quite honestly, I wish more artistic directors from around the state would attend the festival. Some do, of course. But where else can so many women directors "audition" under one roof in a real-world setting - in front of an audience expecting to see their best work?

Last night's opening was like every other: Several short plays were staged over two "boxes" of time (roughly two hours overall). Several other "boxes will be presented today.

And as also expected, the work of the directors varied in quality and - I suspect - experience. The strongest of the boxes was the second - Box 3 - which featured three plays directed by three women who understood their script and knew how to get the best work out of their actors.

Michelle LeRoy tackled "Forbidden Love," in which a former student of a poetry teacher returns after 10 years to profess her love. Dyan Bailey had plenty of fun with "The Stand In," in which an actress discovers that her unexpected audition partner is a sock puppet. And Megan Wright shows how an intuitive director can turn an otherwise creepy script into a fascinating character study with "Date 16."

Personally, I'd love to see theaters hire all three of these women. And it was especially interesting to see how LeRoy and Wright worked with actor David Moan, who does double duty in the first and third shows. The result was two different and totally believable characterizations - one of which could have been too large and far darker, but was played with perfection.

I only wish I could be there today to see work by Frannie Shepherd-Bates and Yolanda Fleischer, among others - and a script by Kitty Dubin. Maybe NEXT weekend.

My bottom line is this: If you're looking for something fun and engaging to do today or next Friday and Saturday, I encourage you to support this valuable and important project. A full schedule can be found by clicking here, and check out the review of the entire festival later this weekend at EncoreMichigan.com.

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